Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Kasi Lemmons, Chris Isaak, Roger Corman, Charles Napier, Tracey Walter
Written by: Ted Tally, from the novel by Thomas Harris
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 118
Date: 01/30/1991

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Liver and Fava Beans

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

By all rights Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs should be considered nothing more than a top-shelf B-movie. (I mean, it has Roger Corman and Charles Napier in it!) Demme himself cut his teeth on B-movies like Caged Heat (1974) and Crazy Mama (1975). But somehow this outstanding serial killer film went on to enormous popularity, a boatload of Oscars, and set the blueprint for a decade's worth of serial killer movies to come (and still coming). Of course, Michael Mann did it all better five years earlier, adapting Thomas Harris's earlier book "Red Dragon" into the film Manhunter. But that film never caught on; perhaps audiences just weren't ready yet.

In The Silence of the Lambs, Jodie Foster stars as the young FBI agent, Clarice Starling, chosen to help out on the "Buffalo Bill" case. She's young and still wrestling with how to use her sexuality as part of her arsenal (men look her up and down wherever she goes). When she enters the killer's lair, her breathing grows out of control, in an almost erotic way. But Anthony Hopkins effortlessly steals the show as Hannibal Lecter. I'm sure nobody realized -- as Hopkins accepted his Best Actor Oscar in early 1992 -- that the actor had only been onscreen about one quarter of the film's running time. He clearly stole the show. He was the voice, the eyes, and the face of it. But the Academy also rightly awarded Best Actress to Foster for being the heart and soul of the piece.

Many fans were brokenhearted when Foster turned down Clarice Starling in this year's sequel, Hannibal. But that movie did pretty well with actress Julianne Moore in her place. If anyone out there approaches Foster's talent and humanity, it's Moore. Now fans can compare at home with DVD remotes in hand. The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal debut on DVD in spectacular MGM/UA special editions, as well as Foster's two directorial efforts and one of Moore's greatest performances.

I haven't seen the Criterion Collection's version of The Silence of the Lambs, so I can make no comparisons, but for the price, the MGM version is perfectly acceptable. The colors and sound are reasonably sharp, and it comes letterboxed, and that's good enough for me. It also contains two documentaries, one old, one new, neither very interesting, and a host of outtakes, all quite interesting. (The two-minute blooper reel is a keeper.)

In January of 2007, MGM released yet another DVD version of this movie, this time in a two-disc set with even more extras.

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